Thursday, October 07, 2010

Ichirose

There is a little banter battle going back and forth in the English-language sports dailies here in Japan about the entire Pete Rose dissing Ichiro thing, so since I just spent a whole bunch of time reading these, I figure I might as well link them.

I guess this starts with Rick Reilly's story on Pete Rose getting to recreate his record-setting Ty-Cobb-beating single in Cincinnati. (Unrelated, but I was there at Veterans Stadium when Pete Rose broke Stan Musial's NL hit record.)

In that article, there are two choice quotes that (rightfully) kind of piss off Ichiro fans:

"Do you realize that Ichiro has had three or four seasons where about 27, 28 percent of his hits are infield hits? The guy has to be the luckiest guy in the history of the world to get that many infield hits!"

"OK, you gonna let me go over to Japan and play for five or six years? Nothing against Japanese baseball, but it's basically Triple-A ball."

So then Rob Neyer writes, If Ichiro Had Been Born in California... and points out that Ichiro is pretty much the exact kind of player you would pick to reach 4000 hits, were he to play his entire career in the MLB, which wasn't an option.

A week or so later (Sep 16), Jim Allen, who writes the Hot Corner for the Daily Yomiuri, and is a guy who's been here in Japan watching baseball since Ichiro was in junior high school, takes up the torch to point out that calling NPB AAA-level isn't quite fair, AND that Rose had "daida ore" privileges as Reds manager to get himself into lineups long past his prime.

(Around the same time, Joe Posnanski also chimes in on the "How great is Ichiro really?" debate. NPB card guy linked this one in the comments.)

A week after that (Sep 25), Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times takes a somewhat neutral stance and just points out that in the Ichirose debate, the numbers won't lie.

And then a week after THAT (Oct 2), Jason's boss Jack Gallagher goes off on a Ichiro is a selfish player who will never be anywhere as good as Pete Rose rant out of nowhere, asserting that "Ichiro is a great player who puts himself first," and "Ichiro plays for stats, while Rose played to win." Which didn't sit right with me, but my general feeling is that it really doesn't matter and you simply can't compare the two guys meaningfully.

So today, Oct 7, I'm reading Jim Allen again, and he wrote another article to point out exactly what was wrong with the JT article. What amuses me is not necessarily the way Jim states his points but the way he refers to that "other rival newspaper writer".

It's kind of neat, though at the same time it's like sitting in on a debate being conducted by carrier pigeon correspondence.

Either way, there have been a whole lot of pretty crazy hitting achievements this season. What I find even crazier when I think about it is that this was Ichiro's 10th season in the MLB already; I remember visiting Japan in 2001 when it was his first season there and you could see Mariners games on TV pretty much anywhere in the country you went. Time flies!

8 comments:

Nadya said...

Just to say that "daida ore privileges" is the neatest Japanese/English baseball locution I've heard lately.

Deanna said...

Thanks! It's nice to know that I erred on the side of clever rather than the side of "Oh crap, nobody is going to get that one" :) It's a little hard to believe that it's already been 3 years since Furuta retired.

Marc said...

I love the quote about Rose playing to win when he expressly stayed in the game to catch Cobb. I've also heard quotes from former teammates that Pete ALWAYS knew what his stats were.

westbaystars said...

I've been reading a lot of Sabermetrics books lately (Costa, Huber and Saccoman's "Understanding Sabermetrics: An Introduction to the Science of Baseball Statistics" and "Practicing Sabermetrics" now) and the very definition of Sabermetrics is "the search for objective knowledge about baseball." Numerous sections of these books are dedicated to meaningfully comparing players of different eras.

Now Jim, having been the first to apply Sabermetrics to Japanese baseball with a few guides in the mid 1990s, would be in a very good position to refute the idea that they can't or shouldn't be compared.

Regarding the act of debating through battling articles in weekly columns, wouldn't it be great if there was some medium whereby the two of them could hold their debate with almost instant feedback. Some sort of public forum where they could both write and everyone could read their flame war. That could be fun to watch. Perhaps newspapers will come up with such a technology someday.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Rose's dumb comments will motivate Ichiro more to break the record next year.

NPB Card Guy said...

I'm astonished that Rose somehow thinks speed is just dumb luck, not a tool.

Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated (who wrote a book called The Machine about the mid-70's Reds) had an interesting article on Ichiro recently. In it, he had this little aside about Rose:

"When I talked to Pete for The Machine, he flat told me: “Hey, tell Ichiro he can even count his hits in Japan. I don’t care. He ain’t getting to 4,000 hits.” Yep, Pete was a big man then. But Ichiro has had something like 700 or 800 hits since then, and I now see interviews with Pete singing a different tune about how — COME ON! Japan is Triple-A baseball! You can’t count those hits! You’ve got to be KIDDING ME! What, do you want to count my hits in MACON? That little change sums up Pete Rose the man just about as well as anything else."

Deanna said...

Oh, that is a good article and JoePo is always a good read. I saw a reference to it in one of the other articles but didn't read it myself -- will add it to this collection.

Sean said...

Interesting debate, thanks for all the links.

I think Posnaski is right though, Ichiro simply doesn't get on base enough. His OBP was 39th in the majors this year at .359, 2 points behind Hideki Matsui. His lack of power puts him 86th on the OPS chart at .754.

I know Seattle had a sorry collection of hitters behind him, but Ichiro is partially responsible for the anemic offense by making too many outs, often swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. Sure some of them end up being infield singles, but a lot of them are easy outs.

Doesn't mean he's not a great hitter, and his record is a testament to being virtually free of injury, but if "he could draw more walks and hit for more power" as Jim Allen wrote, I think it would be beneficial to his team.

I'm surprised Rose isn't happier that Ichiro's achievement has given him an excuse to be back in the spotlight. Here's hoping that Ichiro beats Rose into the HOF.